Charges laid in rare-pigeon heist in Abbotsford

Police have charged a 29-year-old Abbotsford man with stealing some rare pigeons, and they believe he may be part of a ring responsible for numerous livestock and fowl thefts in the Fraser Valley.

A helmet pigeon is among the breeds recently stolen from a farm in Abbotsford.

A helmet pigeon is among the breeds recently stolen from a farm in Abbotsford.

Police have charged a 29-year-old Abbotsford man with stealing some rare pigeons, and they believe he may be part of a ring responsible for numerous livestock and fowl thefts in the Fraser Valley.

William James Balice was arrested on Canada Day after 365 birds, mostly pigeons, were reported stolen June 28 from a farm in the 2700 block of Lefeuvre Road. He has been charged with possession of stolen property and break and enter.

Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald said the stolen purebred pigeons are highly sought-after by the bird-show community and sell for $60 to $100 per bird.  The breeds taken included the American Roller, the Muffed Tumbler, the West of England Tumbler and Helmet.

Balice was allegedly found in possession of some of the birds, and had listed them for sale on craigslist.

MacDonald said the rarity of the pigeons made them easy to identify, but tracking down the other missing animals has been more difficult.

Abbotsford Police created a position, called LEO (livestock enforcement officer), to deal specifically with the thefts of chickens, pigeons, ducks, goats and sheep.

The incidents began last fall. Two Abbotsford sites were hit in November and February, resulting in the heist of 5,300 pigeons that are sold as meat — known as squab – for $4 to $10 each.

Also this year, close to 20 Boer goats were taken from a property on Downes Road, and hundreds of chickens were stolen from two Abbotsford farms at the end of May.

In Langley, the thefts included 22 lambs, six ducks and 65 chickens from three properties in March. One of those farms was also targeted in December, when 17 ducks were taken.

A farm in Chilliwack was hit in November, when seven pregnant goats were stolen. Six of them were later located on a property in Langley. At the time, Chilliwack RCMP estimated that 60 goats had been swiped from the community.

Balice next appears in Abbotsford provincial court on Friday on the charges related to the pigeon theft. He is also scheduled to plead guilty that day to a previous charge (from March 18) of driving while prohibited.

Balice is also among a group of five charged with break and enter, theft and trespassing in Maple Ridge on March 29, and is next due in Port Coquitlam provincial court on July 13.

Anyone with information about the livestock and fowl thefts is asked to call the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225.